The Nonexistent Gardener

April – June 2022

Eduardo Padilha is an artist in residence at the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve throughout 2022, part of the ‘We Speak In Tongues About The Thing(s) We Love’ project curated by Adelaide Bannerman.

Eduardo Padilha has been researching and developing ideas as The Nonexistent Gardener – an alter ego inspired by the character Agilulf a medieval knight in Italo Calvino’s novel, The Nonexistent Knight (1959). The book is an exploration of identity, migration, integration and manners, as observed through Agilulf whose physical presence is represented as an empty suit of armor.

Thinking about his own daily presence and migration across the city, Padilha has been looking at the idea, forms and uses of camouflage, interrogation and interpretations of surveillance, and his feelings of estrangement and belonging experienced on a daily basis living in a large city.

For the residency Padilha has created a series of new works installed in and around the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. The artworks include raw clay sculptures, fabric eco-prints and large photographic images. The eco-prints feature botanical patterning from plants foraged on his journeys. The colourful pigments and patterning, rendered in Padilha’s artworks are exhibited upon the Nature Reserve billboard throughout the woodland in Spring 2022.

Walk-through of the The Non-existent Gardener, list of works all made in 2022.

Looking Back, Red Echo, Purple Echo

Billboard Poster Triptych

Starting at the billboard in the Southwest corner; a series of three posters exploring the imprint of flora on fabric and paper. Looking Back  is a photographic portrait, taken by Sol Aizcorbe, features the artist secluded and camouflaged in clothing bearing the marks of foliage and detritus collected from the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Padilha describes the mood of the work as “a wish to belong and to merge into the site”. This work is followed by Red Echo, and Purple Echo which offer vivid and muted interpretations of the eco-printing process with different chemical formulations, capturing the ‘ghost and shadows’ of plant material.

Eco Flags

Mixed Media Installation

Leading through to the South-east end of the Reserve, Padilha has selected perspectives and natural supports to hang and present sculptural works made from fabric and ceramic. Two Eco Flags are eco-prints of different dimensions that are hung and weighted with brass chains and ceramic weights.


Mixed Media Installation

Eco-Poncho is a performative fabric installation for visitors to wear. Hung between three hazel trees, the large silk eco-print is a communal poncho with vents to stick one’s head through. On a sunny day, the imprinted cape creates additional plant shadows from the surrounding flora as it moves like a large flag in the wind. In part the work is homage to Brazilian artist Lygia Pape’s 1968 work Divisor, a communal artwork worn by several participants at a time enabling the material sculpture to be re-made with every visitor.  

Kiko, Leaning On

Mixed Media Installation

Kiko, and Leaning On are fired and unfired ceramic artworks that make use of the natural materials and waste blown into the Nature Reserve from the street. Kiko is an altar surrounded by candles cast from drinking glasses from Padilha’s home. Simple in structure, Kiko builds over time, where more clay and objects are added to the work each week. This installation naturally merges with the rubble of the bombed church of St. Jude’s, jutting out of the Nature Reserve soil.   

Leaning On features 6 glazed ceramic casts with brass chain and ceramic plumblines placed between forked trees or laid to rest over the soil and found amongst the building rubble.

Ayahuasca, a declaration of love

Public Event – Sunday 19 June, 12pm – 5pm

Eduardo Padilha will hold a free public event at Bethnal Green Nature Reserve to discuss the benefits of psychoactive plants for mental health, wellbeing and creativity.

Ayahuasca, a declaration of love with feature writer and philosopher Govert Derix and David Luke, Associate Professor of Psychology, from The University of Greenwich and a musical interlude from cellist Yoko Afi.